Better late than never, here’s the first Strike Zone of 2019. Unfortunately, between rankings updates, moving between houses and travel, I wasn’t able to do my typical position breakdown articles this spring. So, what I’m doing is simply cramming all of my favorite picks into this one column here. I’ll be starting up with the regular notes columns on Wednesday.
Below is pretty much everyone I’m winding up with in my leagues this season. Listed next to each player’s name is his placement in my Top 300 for the Rotoworld Draft Guide, his NFBC ADP for the month of March and his Yahoo ADP. Let’s get started.
Gary Sanchez, Fantasy Baseball preview
Gary Sanchez - 35th Top 300 - 54th NFBC - 59th Yahoo
Willson Contreras - 102nd Top 300 - 132nd NFBC - 131st Yahoo
Austin Barnes - 207th Top 300 - 338th NFBC - 87% undrafted Yahoo
I can’t remember a more brutal year for the catcher position. I believe in Sanchez -- he had excellent exit velocity numbers and his strikeout rate wasn’t all that bad while hitting .186 last year -- but if I don’t wind up with him, I’m good with waiting for the end to get Barnes or maybe Francisco Mejia. I care little for spring training numbers, but it’s not a bad thing that Barnes has managed a couple of homers and three doubles in 39 at-bats in the Cactus League. If his power comes back at all, he could be a top-five catcher with his ability to hit for average and steal the occasional base.
Cody Bellinger - 25th Top 300 - 44th NFBC - 45th Yahoo
Luke Voit - 107th Top 300 - 178th NFBC - 218th Yahoo
C.J. Cron - 161st Top 300 - 250th NFBC - 243rd Yahoo
Josh Bell - 196th Top 300 - 255th NFBC - 230th Yahoo
First base gets criticized as a shallow spot and its depth has taken a hit with Matt Olson going down, but I still don’t mind waiting here. Cron, Bell, Tyler White, Wilmer Flores, Hanley Ramirez (if he has the job in Cleveland) and Pete Alonso all offer decent potential late in drafts.
Voit has only gotten riskier in light of the strong spring posted by Greg Bird; Bird is the better defender at first and would potentially offer a lefty complement to all of the Yankees’ right-handed power. Still, I like Voit’s chances of hitting .260 with 30-35 homers and 100 RBI if he gets 600 plate appearances.
Daniel Murphy - 46th Top 300 - 72nd NFBC - 64th Yahoo
Jonathan Villar - 50th Top 300 - 81st NFBC - 87th Yahoo
Rougned Odor - 77th Top 300 - 124th NFBC - 115th Yahoo
Adam Frazier - 175th Top 300 - 358th NFBC - 98% undrafted Yahoo
This is a spot I’ve been addressing in the 6th-10th rounds of mixed-league drafts, almost always with one of the first three guys listed here. Villar makes for an excellent choice for teams that don’t get much speed at the beginning of drafts; the Orioles are going to be horrible and have no reason not to let him do all of the running he wants. He’s going to hit some homers, too.
Frazier and Jonathan Schoop make for solid MI picks. Frazier won’t do enough in homers or steals to be a huge asset, but he can hit for average and score a bunch of runs as the Pirates’ likely regular leadoff hitter.
Eugenio Suarez - 40th Top 300 - 54th NFBC - 57th Yahoo
Rafael Devers - 53rd Top 300 - 143rd NFBC - 126th Yahoo
Matt Chapman - 72nd Top 300 - 111th NFBC - 99th Yahoo
Devers aside, I’m pretty close to consensus at third base. I’m drafting Devers everywhere, though. He showed he was a rare talent by posting a .955 OPS in the minors and hitting .284/.338/.482 in 222 major league at-bats at age 20 in 2017, and while last year was a setback, he’s far from the first player to suffer a sophomore slump. I was already high on him going into the spring, and I’m borderline ecstatic now that the Red Sox are showing a willingness to bat him third in between Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez. There might not be a cushier spot in the majors.
Trevor Story - 7th Top 300 - 17th NFBC - 21st Yahoo
Xander Bogaerts - 26th Top 300 - 48th NFBC - 47th Yahoo
Jose Peraza - 59th Top 300 - 97th NFBC - 144th Yahoo
Ketel Marte - 90th Top 300 - 220th NFBC - 74% undrafted Yahoo
Elvis Andrus - 92nd Top 300 - 181st NFBC - 150th Yahoo
Garrett Hampson - 103rd Top 300 - 189th NFBC - 236th Yahoo
I draft shortstops early and often; whether it’s Marte or Andrus, one often even occupies the utility slot in my lineup. There’s no positional adjustment going on here; I just like those guys better than anyone outside my top 30 outfielders or top eight first basemen.
Nothing about Story’s 2018 seems fluky to me. Maybe he won’t steal as many bases again, but he has the speed to do so if he wants. For what it’s worth, he’s 3-for-3 on the basepaths this spring. I’ll gladly take him at the end of round one and then maybe also grab Bogaerts or Carlos Correa in the 35-40 range.
Marte might be my favorite pick this year after showing some real pop last season; he had 14 homers, 12 triples and 26 doubles in 520 at-bats. He somehow hit just .260 even though he fanned a mere 13.6% of the time. He could easily get up to .280 this year, and he should be a great source of runs scored while hitting high in the Diamondbacks order.
Andrus was a top-50 guy last year, but he suffered a broken elbow two weeks into the season and never really got it together after returning. He’s still in a great situation for offense in Texas, and he’ll be hitting in the top half of the order. He’s not a top-50 pick again, but it’s crazy how late he’s lasting in drafts.
Andrew Benintendi - 12th Top 300 - 30th NFBC - 30th Yahoo
Juan Soto - 21st Top 300 - 33rd NFBC - 29th Yahoo
David Dahl - 36th Top 300 - 70th NFBC - 94th Yahoo
Mitch Haniger - 54th Top 300 - 91st NFBC - 86th Yahoo
Mallex Smith - 57th Top 300 - 106th NFBC - 158th Yahoo
Andrew McCutchen - 94th Top 300 - 136th NFBC - 122nd Yahoo
Max Kepler - 104th Top 300 - 232nd NFBC - 227th Yahoo
Randal Grichuk - 146th Top 300 - 242nd NFBC - 245th Yahoo
Cedric Mullins - 197th Top 300 - 301st NFBC - 98% undrafted Yahoo
Jorge Soler - 213th Top 300 - 348th NFBC - 96% undrafted Yahoo
Dahl and Kepler seem to be on all of my squads. I’m surprised just how little hype Dahl is getting after putting up respectable numbers in 77 games last year and, most importantly, finishing the season healthy. I wouldn’t be very high on him if not for Coors Field, but he has 30-homer ability and Coors almost guarantees that he’ll hit for a solid average. He might not actually be a very good player for the Rockies in the process, but considering that they still haven’t noticed just how bad Ian Desmond is, Dahl shouldn’t have much to worry about.
Kepler’s strikeout and walk rates both improved dramatically last year, and while it didn’t immediately translate to better numbers anywhere else, I think it will this year. It even looks like the Twins will let him lead off against right-handers, giving him another little boost. I’m guessing that he’ll hit 28-30 homers.
For me, Smith rates as the best of the pure-steal guys this year. He can run wild from the leadoff spot on a rebuilding Mariners team. ... I don’t think of myself as high on McCutchen, but it seems I am. He could contend for the NL lead in runs scored as the Phillies’ leadoff man. ... Once healthy, Grichuk hit .271/.319/.553 with 23 homers and 54 RBI over the final four months of last season. He’s a great bet for 30 homers.
Chris Archer - 95th Top 300 - 132nd NFBC - 126th Yahoo
Cole Hamels - 106th Top 300 - 151st NFBC - 147th Yahoo
Yu Darvish - 115th Top 300 - 146th NFBC - 144th Yahoo
Ross Stripling - 126th Top 300 - 214th NFBC - 193rd Yahoo
Kenta Maeda - 137th Top 300 - 210th NFBC - 178th Yahoo
Jose Quintana - 154th Top 300 - 193rd NFBC - 168th Yahoo
Corbin Burnes - 157th Top 300 - 310th NFBC - N/A Yahoo
Joe Musgrove - 159th Top 300 - 213th NFBC - 65% undrafted Yahoo
Sonny Gray - 185th Top 300 - 277th NFBC - 237th Yahoo
Steven Matz - 194th Top 300 - 250th NFBC - 67% undrafted Yahoo
Pablo Lopez - 220th Top 300 - 613th NFBC - N/A Yahoo
Yonny Chirinos - 227th Top 300 - 528th NFBC - N/A Yahoo
There are no elite starters here. I’ll gladly take Max Scherzer as high as fourth overall or Chris Sale or Jacob deGrom in round two, but in my judgment, there are no bargains to be had among the top 15 starters. The ones who are pretty much even in my top 300 and the ADPs are Corey Kluber, Walker Buehler and Jack Flaherty.
So, ideally, I’ll land an ace and then just start taking my chances with these pitchers above. Obviously, I prefer NL pitchers aided by their ballparks and/or their defenses (AL guys I like as decent values include Masahiro Tanaka, Shane Bieber, Eduardo Rodriguez, Collin McHugh and Josh James).
Stripling is a guy I have in every league in which I partake. I’d rank him as a top-20 starter if I had assurances the Dodgers wouldn’t jerk him around. He looked that good for 3 ½ months last year before fatigue and injuries took a toll. He should be better equipped to throw 150 innings this year. ... I was worried Burnes would be left out of the Brewers rotation -- and there’s still the chance he could be bumped if Jimmy Nelson returns in late April -- but he’s a big-time talent with a mid-90s fastball and a couple of strikeout breaking balls. I’ll gladly bet on that kind of arm. ... Lopez was my top ranked Marlins SP entering the spring, even though I was skeptical he’d have a rotation spot initially. What I wasn’t expecting was to see him show up with a couple of extra ticks on his fastball. I thought he was just going to be an interesting middle-of-the-rotation arm, but he has some extra upside now.
Some other guys I wouldn’t mind having stashed away are Julio Urias, Matthew Boyd, Ryan Yarbrough, Touki Toussaint, Danny Salazar, Caleb Smith, Alex Reyes, Matt Strahm. Urias and Strahm could be worth playing right away, but I just don’t have either throwing a ton of innings.
Felipe Vazquez - 73rd Top 300 - 91st NFBC - 90th Yahoo
David Robertson - 123rd Top 300 - 188th NFBC - 140th Yahoo
Alex Colome - 132nd Top 300 - 230th NFBC - 183rd Yahoo
Hunter Strickland - 167th Top 300 - 333rd NFBC - 69% undrafted Yahoo
Ryan Pressly - 189th Top 300 - 430th NFBC - 95% undrafted Yahoo
Trevor May - 202nd Top 300 - 252nd NFBC - 219th Yahoo
Diego Castillo - 215th Top 300 - 573rd NFBC - 98% undrafted Yahoo
Robertson and Colome are dropping because people don’t see them as sure things for saves, but the truth is that there just aren’t all that many sure things for saves right now. The White Sox acquired Colome to do the job and showed no sign of reversing course after also adding Kelvin Herrera. I think he’s relatively safe. Robertson wasn’t promised anything by the Phillies, and there most likely will be some mixing-and-matching there early on. Still, he has a terrific track record. If I were Gabe Kapler, I think I’d usually be spotting Seranthony Dominguez in tough situations in the seventh and eighth and reserving Robertson for the ninth.
Strickland is good and has little in the way of competition in Seattle, so he’s been my favorite choice as a No. 3 closer since the beginning of the spring. Unfortunately, the price tag is likely a little higher now after he saved both games in Japan. ... Pressly is big long shot for saves behind the durable Roberto Osuna, but I have him projected as a top-five RP from an ERA/WHIP/K standpoint. There should be room for him on fantasy staffs even in shallow leagues. ... People rightfully prefer Jose Alvarado to Castillo in Tampa Bay, but that Alvarado is a lefty could work against him when it comes to save chances. Castillo has a closer-type arm, though I’m not sure if the results will be there yet. I also like Ryne Stanek there, but he’ll likely continue to be treated as an opener initially.